Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Too Good to Be True

The Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society Museum has a big ledger titled, "Record of Recognizance Bonds," being the record of bonds posted for people charged with various misdeeds in Lake County from the late 1870s to the mid-1890s. Among them is this one dated May 18, 1883:

2015-10-20. Ainsworth recognizance bond record
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society.

Of course, when I saw that name I got all excited. While the notion that the Ainsworth stop on the Grand Trunk Railroad was named for a railroad executive comes only from a 2006 Post-Tribune article by Bob Burns, who qualified it with "reportedly," still I dreamed up a story about this mysterious executive who, after spending time in northwest Indiana in 1880 overseeing the construction of the railroad, became fond of the area, and especially of Cedar Lake; so a couple of years later he took a vacation there — but alas, he chose to fish in an unsportsmanlike manner, and fell into the hands of the law.

That story was too good to be true.

A little investigation into the census records turned up not a railroad executive, but a "laborer" living in Center Township, perhaps in or near Crown Point (since one of his neighbors is a deputy county clerk). Sidney Ainsworth was born circa 1852 in New York, and sometime after 1870 came out to Lake County and got married, not necessarily in that order (1870 Census, 1880 Census). The S.W. Ainsworth who co-signed his bond was his father, a Civil War veteran born circa 1821.

Neither lived long after the gill-net incident. Maplewood Cemetery in Crown Point is the final resting-place of both father and son.

Horace Marble was the Lake County sheriff at the time of this incident, having been elected in 1880. The 1880 Census showed him living in the town of Hobart, working as a "commission merchant," whatever that may be. As we know, his first wife, Mary, rests in Chester Cemetery.

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[12/2/2015 update] Here is Sidney Ainsworth's obituary, from the Lake County Star of May 31, 1889:

Sidney Ainsworth obit
(Click on image to enlarge)

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